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Inf@Vis!

The digital magazine of InfoVis.net

Six Years
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 182]

On the first of July InfoVis.net celebrated its sixth anniversary when the digital magazine first saw the light. Every other year since then I've been reviewing what the two years period has provided. This one will be no exception.
ViejoInfovisNet_es.gif (143082 bytes)
The old image of InfoVis.net
Source: Screenshot by the author
Click on the image to enlarge it

Since tha last review (num 149, Data for a visualisation) the digital magazine has grown substantially reaching 4920 active subscriptions in Spanish and 1415 in English for a total of 6335 compared to 2826 and 945 respectively at the same date in 2004. The last figures add up to a total of 3771, meaning Inf@Vis! has grown around 68% in the last two years.

The number of pages served by InfoVis.net website has also grown, reaching a maximum of 101,609 pages served during the last month of May. Since July 2004 the maximum registered was 58,666, also in May of that year. This accounts for around a 73%increase in the maximum number of pages.

Taking into account that from the total of 2,329,933 pages served until last 1st of July 37% were served during the last 12 months we can reach the conclusion that InfoVis.net performs pretty well.

But this affirmation, albeit not false, hides a small disaster that is not easily seen just looking at the integrated data. Visualisation comes once more to help us. If we look at the chart depicting the number of monthly pages served by InfoVis.net from the beginning until June 2006 we can see that the growth although sustained, shows some important oscillations.

A disaster

The biggest oscillation took place between December 2004 and January 2005 (marked by an arrow in the chart) after having registered one of the largest sustained growths, from July to Novenber 2004 (62% in total). But during the months before mentioned 81% ! was lost. December accounts for 26%, more or less the usual amount of that month, typically the lowest in the year. But January alone accounts for a big additional 55%. How could such a catastrophe take place?.
EvolInfoVis.gif (16829 bytes)
Evolution of InfoVis.net 2000-2006. The arrow indicates the moment of change into a dynamic, database driven website.
Source: Chart produced by the author
Click on the image to enlarge it

You have to look for the cause of that in the conversion of Infovis.net, up to then a web made up from HTML pages written manually one at a time, to a dynamical system, that generates the pages on demand using the scripting language PHP and a MySQL database, where all the information was migrated. All the URLs of pages changed from more or less reasonable names like www.infovis.net/E-Zine/2004/num_149.htm to become much more cryptic identifiers like www.infovis.net/printMag.php?num=149&lang=2, more readable to software programs that to users.

The key of it all is that because of the chronic lack of time I have, I didn't provide the system with an automatic translator of old names into new ones. Immediately, maybe thousands of links to InfoVis.net became obsolete in the bookmarks of many readers and in many pages throughout Internet referring to InfoVis.net pages. The worst thing has been that returning to the levels of November 2005 has taken one year.

The reason for change

Maintenance of InfoVis.net was becoming impractical and too manual. Moreover a change of look and presentation of the web was needed and this would have meant changing almost every single page. An impossible task with the volume of existing pages at that moment. For this reason, with the help of some colleagues, we created a simple Content Management System converting everything of InfoVis to its database counterpart.

Then, just by changing the code in one script page, it was possible to modify the structure of entire categories of pages which allowed in its moment to change easily the "look and feel" of the website. The price paid in usability determined by the change of the URL names appeared justified by the power and versatility of the dynamic system.

The fact is the dramatic impact in the number of pages served surprised me completely since I never imagined the amount of links that became obsolete in Internet. I hope the knowledge of this lamentable error could help some readers avoid such situations. It's lamentable because it's such an elementary thing only diminished by the fact that InfoVis.net was, as we said in its day, "a one man show"; the work of only one person in the time stolen from his leisure.

For this very reason since August 2005, Robert Villuela collaborates editing from Berlin the entries for companies, events and people, among other things. This collaboration has allowed InfoVis.net to increase substantially the contents in sections that remained static for very long time. Karen Fordham continues proofreading the English version , now already with her baby Luc looking at her from the cradle.

What lies ahead

An interesting fact is that finally we have opened, one year ago, a research line about hierarchical systems visualisation, like websites and the like. Two people are already working along this line, one of them pursuing a PhD Thesis within the framework of Universitat Pompeu Fabra. This will enable us to show new visualisation paradigms using InfoVis.net as a test bench.

On the other hand I'm confident to improve the way to access the contents, that will still appear not as frequently as it was before due to my increasing workload of my other professional obligations.

Finally

Should you have read until here, kind reader, this means that you are a passionate reader of InfoVis.net and this is the moment to thank you for the support this implies. The readers surely can't imagine how important it is for the writer to know that there exists an other side that makes all the work and effort worthwhile. Consequently, many, many thanks for supporting InfoVis.net.

Links of this issue:

http://www.infovis.net/printMag.php?num=149&lang=2   Num. 149 about Data for a visualisation
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